Category Archives: Ethics

Is Hari just Hapless and Harmless?

Promotional photograph of Johann Hari

Image via Wikipedia

For those who don’t know who Johann Hari is, he is a ‘leading’ left-wing/liberal journalist who writes twice-weekly for the Independent.
Recently, I wrote about the Ethics of Journalism where I posted a video about Hari’s controversial use of quotes. The plot has thickened.

Guy Walters, a commentator on the left-wing New Statesman has started looking further into the controversy since hearing about it, starting off as sympathetic to Hari before becoming increasingly outspoken about how bad and frequent Hari’s plagiarisms really are.

The first of his recent articles can be read here where Walters comments on the fact that almost every one of his quotes from his alleged interview with Malalai Joya have been plagiarised from her book.

The second, which you can read here, has more than a hint of irony. This time Hari plagiarises from the Daily Mail, a right-wing newspaper which supposedly goes against everything Hari stands for.

I was not a fan of Hari beforehand, maybe because of the way he passes off highly opinionated comments and spins as brute fact, or the way he speaks of financial history as if he were an expert when in actual fact he has had no formal training in either economics or financial history. He speaks on religion with an equal amount of certainty despite having no comprehension or open-mindedness with the issues at hand. All these things reek not of a leading public intellectual, for which he certainly is not one, as much as a public sophist. A sophist who’s been found out for what he is, too.

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The Ethics of Journalism


In the news recently there’s been a huge amount of attention focusing on the News of the World newspaper, which is part of Ruport Murdoch’s media empire, ‘News Corporation’.
It’s come to light that the paper has consistently been involved with hacking people’s phones, whether it’s footballers’, politicians’ or just every day normal people.

This is a huge scandal which has shocked a lot of people, including me. I take a slightly different perspective on it, though. It’s almost every year that a large scandal breaks out, from the deceit and lies within investment banks and hedge funds in 2008, to the politicians’ expenses scandal in 2009, to the care homes abuse scandals of this year (see here as well), the innumerable sex and adultery scandals with celebrities and now the hacking scandal with journalists and newspapers. My perspective on this is that time and time again, what we see around us has confirmed that humans have a sinful, depraved nature. When left to their own devices they will lie, steal, cheat, abuse and more. Human beings have it in their nature to put themselves first, to get rich, to get that sense of satisfaction. That is why I am suspicious of people who argue markets and individuals left to themselves will produce the best outcomes, no intervention from anyone is needed. I think this underestimates what people are willing to do if they can get away with it.

Equally, though, I am suspicious of Statist solutions that Lefties so often promulgate. That’s because politicians are just as corrupt, if not more so, as you and me. They are not angels or knights in shining armour. And yes, that means that Obama is not the Messiah. Sorry kids!

The interview above (it starts at 3:03) is an excellent piece of work by Andrew Neil, who is in my view one of the Britain’s top journalists and interviewers. He is perpetually constrained to day time TV or late night shows, though, and is never ever utilised in the BBC’s main quality news programme which is Newsnight. But I’m sure that’s got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he doesn’t fit into the BBC’s self-enforcing left wing mold.

One thing raised in the interview is the issue of self-censorship, and whether the State will have to start getting involved in regulating the media. It does seem clear that among certain newspapers, self censorship isn’t working. This is not only to do with the phone hacking scandal, but also the whole super-injunctions controversy. Some argue that because newspapers are not censoring themselves sensibly, the State needs to get involved. But I’m not so sure.

Is it not the case that the reason super-injunctions have been in the news so much is because the law is not crystal clear about what is and is not allowed? It has been practically anonymous judges making decisions on borderline cases which is what is stirring the whole thing up. The public don’t know what to think, much less the newspapers. I would say that once we get the law and relevant rights of the media and of individual privacy clarified and codified, then we will see this whole thing die down considerably. Equally, as it says in the interview, there have also grey areas around what journalists can and cannot report. For example, there are now criminal laws in place about hacking and the like which were not in place in 2002. Now that all of these scandals have come to light, newspapers know that they will not be able to get away with similar behaviour, and their reputation will be tarnished if they do so. Again, I expect newspapers to take a big step away from this kind of thing because that, but also because the media watchdog and the police will be much more on their toes when it comes to investigate such crimes.

Another bit about the ethics of journalism has also been in the news, this time about how journalists quote people. I’ve put the video below.